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NCFE

Importance of creative industries and apprenticeships

Kath Geraghty, Apprenticeship manager, National Theatre
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The creative industries are hugely important to the country with most people engaging with them daily through the media they consume, the clothing they wear, items they use or places they visit.   

As route panel chairs, we have been able to see the impact that the apprenticeship programme has had on the creative industries. This is a sector which many have aspired to enter but have struggled to get a foothold in as, traditionally, many of the routes to entry have been informal with reliance on personal networks and unpaid internships.  

The theatre sector, for example, has embraced apprenticeships as a means of reaching out to individuals or communities that might not automatically consider theatre as a workplace, and who wouldn’t naturally have access to the kind of cultural capital that would enable them to shine at an interview. As an apprenticeship is specifically designed to allow an employer to take on an individual that shows enthusiasm and aptitude rather than pre-existing skills, apprenticeships have allowed us to bring people from all backgrounds into our workplaces. It is also bringing women into traditionally male areas, such as metal work, carpentry and technical theatre, and men into areas usually dominated by women, such as costume and scenic art.  

It has been really positive to see how the apprenticeship programme has provided young people from different backgrounds with a way into the creative sector, as well as providing employers with access to a growing talent pipeline to support the growth of the sector. In the future, we are also looking forward to seeing more people enter the creative and design route through the new T Levels which are being developed in ‘craft and design’ and ‘media, broadcasting and production’ and will be delivered in schools and colleges from September 2023.  

This review has given us the opportunity to look across the creative and design route to ensure it includes apprenticeships in the occupations we would expect to see in our sector. These occupations will provide the foundation for high quality technical education across apprenticeships, T Levels and higher technical qualifications.  We have also analysed whether the standards include the right balance of knowledge, skills and behaviours to allow an individual to become fully competent in the occupations. As part of this review, we have recommended changes to 15 standards and agreed a set of principles which should be considered for the development of future standards. These principles include ensuring that the content within the standards is transferable across the full range of employers who employ individuals in an occupation, that the language is accessible to all and that the standards reflect the latest technological developments in the sector. This will ensure that the technical education offer is of the highest quality for learners and provides organisations with employees who have the right skills for their business. 

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Whilst we have come a long way from when the route panel first met 2017, we still face challenges. Many employers in the creative sector are still unsure about apprenticeships and T Levels. We need to continue to engage with colleagues in the industry to make sure that the benefits of technical education are widely known.  

For example, as the pandemic has highlighted, many people in the creative sector work as freelancers, moving between employers on short term projects. This model makes it very difficult for companies to take on a full-time apprentice. This has led to some great work between industry and government to unblock the barriers employers are facing. ScreenSkills are currently running a flexible apprenticeship pilot in order to enable apprentices to have several work placements during their training, including working on Netflix and WarnerMedia productions. The pilot has received funding from Department for Culture Media and Sports with Government announcing a new £7 million flexible apprenticeship fund to support the creation of more flexible apprenticeships.  

Letting apprentices to move from project to project with different employers, allows companies to support an apprentice for a specific and limited time, enabling the apprentice, and the sector to benefit from their tremendous skills. It also contributes to improved social mobility, as it provides further training and a clear progression route into the sector for entry level jobs which are usually offered on short term fixed contracts.  

As we share the full findings of this review, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all employers who have taken the time to develop the apprenticeships and contributed to this review. We are confident that that apprenticeships and technical education will support the sector through the pandemic and onto recovery. 

Vic Wade and Kath Geraghty, the Institute’s creative and design route panel chairs

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